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A 17 February Valentine

Note: Aef Thanakorn S. was arrested on 8 December 2015.  He was detained in a military camp for seven days, the maximum currently permitted, before being taken to the Bangkok Military Court and formally accused of violating Article 112, Article 116, and the Computer Crimes Act. These accusations stemmed from his sharing a diagram illustrating the corruption involved in the Rajabhakti Park project and an image of the king’s pet dog on Facebook, as well as clicking ‘like’ on another post on Facebook that the authorities have alleged contained content defamatory to the monarchy. The Bangkok Military Court has refused to grant Aef Thanakorn bail and he is currently being held in the Bangkok Remand Prison. Anon Numpa is a poet and one of his lawyers.—trans.
 
 
How can someone love a person they have never met? I have wondered about this my entire life. How can one come to love a person who they know only by her Facebook avatar? Perhaps all it can be is a conversation to pass the time on a melancholy day.
 
My name is Aef. I am twenty-six years old and work in a factory. I left school when I finished Grade 9 so that my younger sister could continue her studies. My boss often praised me because I did not miss even one day of work for an entire year. I began at a daily wage of 200 or 300 baht, but by the end of last year I was up to 400 baht per day. But that was not enough income to cover my sister’s studies and my father’s recurrent illnesses. My mother also had to go out to work in order to support our family in this difficult time.
 
I met Pad on Facebook on 17 April 2015. At first we used our avatars to converse. During the initial period, I did not think we would chat so much because it was so late by the time I got off work every day.  Where does the time to babble on about love come from in the life of a young factory worker who exchanges his labor for a wage? The young factory worker is doing well if he has enough time to sleep and wake in time to go to work. But that is what impressed me about her. Not once did she bother me about time. She lifted my spirits every day. She cheered me up and augmented my strength so that I could wake and face the hard work of each upcoming day.
 
We had already known each other for several months when I learned that she was a student in the Faculty of Finance and Banking Administration at a public university. I felt humbled and did not want her to throw her dreams away with someone like me who barely had a future.
 
Still our relationship continued to grow. We switched from chatting on Facebook to talking on the phone, but we never saw each other’s faces. We wove a bond between us and linked our hearts. I thought of her on afternoons when the sun blazed upon me. I thought of her in the evenings when I was so tired that I felt it in the sinews of my muscles. And when I came to again, I had fallen in love with her … 
 
We met for the first time seven days after I was arrested at the factory. I was accused of making a Facebook post that defamed the king’s pet dog and sharing a diagram detailing the corruption in the Rajabhakti Park project. Fear overtook me from the second I was arrested. I denied that I had made the diagram about the Rajabhakti Park project. I had pulled the picture of the pet dog from Twitter and did not have the defamatory intention of which they accused me. I spent seven days in a military camp bathed in utter darkness and with confusion reigning over my consciousness. I was not given the opportunity to contact my family and did not know if they were okay. With Pad, seven days was long enough for her to forget about me and have a new person in her life.
 
But fate, it seemed, toyed with me. After I was transferred from the military camp to Bangkok Remand Prison, the first two people who came to see me were Pad and my mother.
 
Pad’s is not an exceptional beauty but she has a gorgeous smile and a kind demeanor.  My mother told me that Pad was the first person who called after I was arrested, and she helped my mother look for me at various military camps. I could not imagine these two women going from camp to camp tirelessly to ask the soldiers about me. All I could do was sit silently. Every sentence caught in my chest. The words I tried to push out were drowned by my tears, the tears of a man locked up. 
 
All I can do now is pray in order to calm my mind. My morale is cheered by the other political prisoners and the friends who send me sustenance. Aside from praying and my assigned work, my daily routine includes the boost to my spirits that comes each morning when Pad visits. She visits nearly every day before going to the university, except during exam periods when it becomes my mother’s duty to visit in her stead. Instead of our nightly chats before I was imprisoned, now we chat every morning. My mother told me that when my father was ill, Pad came to spend the night at our house to keep her company Then she leapt up in the morning to visit me and went to study in the afternoon. The head of my zone [in the prison] has instructed me that if I get out, I should ordain [as a Buddhist monk] for good fortune in beginning my life again. Some nights I dream that Pad is the person who carries the pillow [one of the necessary items] in my ordination ceremony.
 
There is little chance that I will be granted bail.
 
17 February will mark our ten-month anniversary of knowing one another. This will be our Valentine’s Day. I regret that on our first one, we must send gifts to one another via the channels for visitors at the Bangkok Remand Prison. I await the day that we can all be together again: my father, my mother, my younger sister, and Pad. We will be together and live quietly in the industrial estate at the edge of the city, the place where I am from … 
 
 
The Thai text was edited by Anon Numpa and translated by Tyrell Haberkorn.